Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Morning Thanks--Christian education



I graduated from a public high school. I taught in a small, rural public high school in Wisconsin, and loved it. I taught in a huge city high school in Arizona and loved it too. I have a deep regard and love for public education.
But my kids went to a Christian school. My family has been committed to Christian education for generations. I've taught in a Christian college for almost 35 years. I can't begin to tally the bucks we've poured into Christian education. Last year, I was employed, part-time, by a Christian school in New Mexico that's been there, near the Navajo and Zuni reservations, for an entire century. My job was to tout its accomplishments.

Yesterday, when my grandchildren came to visit, they walked into my basement office when the election results were blaring and someone was talking about Barrack Obama. My tow-headed grandson, a kindergartner at a Christian school, looked up at me and said, flatly, "Barack Obama kills babies." He's five years old. I didn't even think he knew the man's name.

I'm sure that refrain didn't come from my grandson's teacher. It's quite likely the line came from some child's deeply-committed, well-meaning parents; but I found the whole incident really sad.
In yesterday's election, there were very good reasons to vote for Barack Obama, and to not to vote for Barack Obama. Abortion remains a horrific open wound on our entire culture, a sin. But isn't it also a sin to tell your children that Barack Obama kills babies?
His bald assertion, to my mind, wasn't Christian education's finest hour. But I trust that this morning, in his classroom, his teacher will talk about love and hate and dignity, about love and hate and sin and grace. And I hope that she mentions the fact that this entire nation has taken a historic step away from its past because Obama's face holds the character of both his white mother and his black father. Astoundingly, America has its first African-American President, and not to mention it is to look past history as if it didn't happen.

This morning I give thanks for Christian education, not because everything that happens in those classrooms and on its playgrounds is pure in heart and spirit, but because I trust that my grand children's teachers, many of whom I've taught myself, can create a classroom environment in which this signal truth reigns: that only God's great love can sustain our ever-starving souls.
I am committed to Christian education because those schools I support here--elementary, secondary, and college--are committed to being bigger than hate.

This morning's thanks are many: for Barack Obama, for a country that seems to have shed some of its awful legacy of racism, and for Christian education, where teachers are committed, first of all, to love.

4 comments:

Tamera and Edward Schreur said...

From the Middle East: As Reformed Christians, as registered voters in Sioux County, as missionaries in a world so loved by God, we join you in giving thanks for our President Elect!

RickNiekLikeBikes said...

In all things be thankful. I'm good with that.

It was a most interesting election season and I paid attention. I don't think I'm fully excited by the result but I can't be solemnly disappointed either. The process worked as it was supposed to and I played my part, as I'll continue doing. My voice works as long as it's allowed.

I guess I just wasn't one of those who waited with bated breath around my television. I voted and was pleased by the opportunity.

One comment is how easy it has been for the American people to potentially move itself into a system much different than I believe was originally intended.

However, congratulations to our new President. Obama may be a positive force in some ways and on some topics. I'll be thankful for them. It was a day. Today it rains, tomorrow it doesn't, Lord willing (James 4:13-15).

Patti said...

I'll be honest...it was a pretty rough day in my particular Christian high school today that, at moments, left me wondering if it's the place for me. I was not proud of many of my "Christian" students as I heard some horribly vile and most definitely NOT Christian crap flying out of their mouths.

On the other hand, I celebrated and cried and prayed with several African American students who were in awe of the history that had been made and so thankful for the hope yesterday brought to them.

And I was SO proud of colleagues who fought ignorance and fear and irrationality today with a message of love and compassion and hope and grace.

So it was a rough day...but at the end of it, I'm still thankful for light in the midst of darkness, and not ready to give up just yet.

Dan said...

Jim:
Your grandson's characterization of Barack Obama's moral standing in regard to abortion is rather jarring to our ears, particularly for those of us with refined cultural sensibilities. We are so impressed with the value of civil discourse that we expect and even laud the rationalization and blame-shifting in which our new president-elect engaged while justifying his vote in the Illinois State Senate. I understand well the dismissal of the pro-life rhetoric aimed at Obama and like-minded champions of personal freedom. For many years I shared that dismissive attitude toward those for whom abortion was the political litmus test. However, because I live in a state where the trajectory of "pro-choice" logic is more fully manifest, I have been forced to rethink my former detachment on this issue. I have reluctantly concluded that my past coolness on the matter was a moral failing on my part born more of cowardice rather than political astuteness. The practical outworking of the logic of the culture of death presented itself again here in my state last Tuesday. We became the second state in the Union to adopt an assisted suicide law, decisively reversing (58%-42%) the rejection of a similar initiative in the early 1990s.
Dr. Elizabeth Achtemeier, the late Presbyterian professor of Bible and Homiletics at Union Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, approached the issue of abortion through the lens of Q&A 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism. I shared that same Q&A with the high school students in my Sunday School class as we pondered the believer's response to the availability of legally-sanctioned assisted suicide in our state: ". . . I am not my own but belong, body and soul, in life and in death, to my faithful savior Jesus Christ . . ."
The logic of the culture of death will advance at varying rates in different regions in the U.S. In my locale, the moral malformation that accompanies it appears to be reaching its maturation more quickly than elsewhere. When Sarah Palin was chosen by McCain as his running mate, the local daily's blog was riddled with contemptuous indictments of her choice to knowingly bear a child with Down Syndrome. Whatever one thinks of Palin (and I had my concerns though I substantially shared her perspective on issues), the supposed freedom that is claimed by "pro-choice" advocates was here unmasked as the lie that they typically hide--the only responsible choice is death for the unwanted as determined by personal whim or social consensus, whichever is less protective.
I recommend for your reflection the thoughts of two articulate critics of Obama's positions on life-issues: Hadley Arkes of Amherst College (http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com) and Robert George of Princeton University (http://www.firstthings.com). As I read through their articles, I found them affirming your grandson's moral clarity, if not his rhetorical strategy. Do not dismiss too quickly the challenge that his words represent to those intent on finding something more than ersatz hope in our president-elect's gauzy rhetoric. We will soon see the true commitments of Mr. Obama on these matters come to the fore as among his first executive orders will be reversals of Mr. Bush's executive orders prohibiting federal funding of embryo-destructive stem-cell research and funding for abortion elsewhere through foreign aid. It is true that these issues are but a couple within a constellation of complex challenges that the new president faces. Nevertheless, they are highly indicative of the philosophy that Mr. Obama brings to governance and identify for us some of the leading principles that will guide his inevitable exercise of immense power in the office of the presidency. My thanks, such as it is, for Mr. Obama's election does not arise from any admiration for his policy choices on these critical matters. May God have mercy on us and on our new president-elect.
Dan